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Bangladesh

Complexities of reputation management and policy making in a globalized world: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

On April 24, 2013, a building called Rana Plaza in Dhaka came crashing down on thousands of workers, killing more than 1,100 and injuring more than 2,500 individuals. Unlike any other building collapse, this received widespread international attention - and continues to do so - because the building housed factories that sewed garments for many European and American clothing brands. As a result, a chunk of blame for the collapse and deaths was placed on retailers and brands that outsourced their work to Bangladesh, and particularly Rana Plaza.

Since the tragedy, these retailers and companies, both big and small, utilized several brand reputation management strategies. This, in turn, impacted the policies of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Primarily, two retailer blocs, The Accord and The Alliance, emerged which have created their own local and international dynamics.

The Accord is a legally binding agreement that has been signed by many European and North American companies and allows for factories to be vetted and shut down in case of non-compliance with safety standards. The Alliance, signed by North American groups such as Walmart and JC Penny, however, does not guarantee any such protections and allows companies to use their own rules with any legal requirements.

Interestingly, many companies who are either part of The Alliance or The Accord, choose not to publicise their participation in such agreements on their own websites. This allows them minimize any attention that could turn into criticism while still taking part in initiatives in case there ever is an inquiry from media, regulators, or other interested parties.

How do you make aid programmes truly adaptive? New lessons from Bangladesh and Cambodia

Duncan Green's picture
Lisa DenneyDaniel HarrisLeni Wild

Following on from yesterday’s post on adaptive aid, a guest piece from Lisa Denney (far left), Daniel Harris (middle) and Leni Wild (near left), all of ODI.

A swelling chorus of the development community has been advocating for more flexible and adaptive programming that can respond to the twists and turns of political reform processes. They argue that in order to achieve better aid outcomes, we need to do development differently. As part of this agenda, ODI and The Asia Foundation, with the assistance of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, tracked and analysed three programmes in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Mongolia. These programmes explicitly sought to work politically in practice, using a relatively small amount of money, a relatively short timeframe, and a focus on tangible changes. We followed attempts to achieve environmental compliance and increase exports in the leather sector in Bangladesh, and to improve solid waste management in Cambodia and Mongolia; issues identified for their potential to make important contributions (economic, health, environmental, etc.) to the wellbeing of citizens. Two of our case studies were released this month, telling the story of how the reforms unfolded and shifted strategy to better leverage the incentives of influential stakeholders, as well as the mechanics of how the Foundation supported adaptive ways of working.
 

How adaptation worked in practice

In each case, the programme teams (led by staff in the Foundation’s local office, and supported by a variety of contracted partners and a wider uncontracted reform network reaching both inside and outside of government) made significant changes to strategy during the implementation phase that helped to address difficult, multidimensional problems. In Cambodia, the team faced a complex and often opaque challenge in which waste collection is characterized by a single company with a long-term confidential contract that is difficult to monitor, a fee structure that does not encourage improved household waste collection, garbage collectors whose conditions do not incentivize performance, and communities that are difficult to access and do not always understand the importance of sanitary waste disposal. With a small Foundation team and limited funding, the approach relied on working with individuals selected as much for personal connections, disposition, and political know-how in working politically and flexibly, as for technical knowledge. The team began by cultivating relations between City Hall and the single contractor providing solid waste management services, then moved to work with the sole provider to improve their delivery, and finally, resolved to end the single contractor model in favour of competition.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Challenges for Poverty Reduction and Service Delivery in the Rural-Urban Continuum

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

The progress in achieving the target set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) continues to be diverse across goals and regions. The goals aim at actualizing a universal standard of being free from grinding poverty, being educated and healthy and having ready access to clean water and sanitation. While progress has lagged for education and health related MDGs, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has indeed fallen. To accelerate further progress in the latter, development strategies have to attempt to increase not only the rate of growth but also the share of income going to the poorest section of the population along the rural-urban continuum.

Economic projections for developing countries prepared by the World Bank state that approximately 970 million people will continue in 2015 to live below $1.25 a day. This would be equivalent to 15.5% of the population in the developing world. Herein, the pertinent challenge of reducing extreme poverty through creation of new income opportunities and better delivery of basic services largely remains in rural areas. In addition, such poverty is concentrated more in Asia (East and South) and Sub Saharan Africa with 38% and 46% of their poor residing in rural areas respectively. Thus, the task of effective rural development remains daunting. But the latter has to be operationalized and implemented holistically, and more importantly, in context of the complexities posed by the rural -urban continuum.

Will Horror and over a Thousand Dead be a Watershed Moment for Bangladesh?

Duncan Green's picture

​A huge and chaotic conversation over how to respond to the appalling Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh (where the death toll has now passed an unprecedented 1100) is producing some important initial results, in the form of the international ‘Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’, launched last week.

I got a glimpse of the background on Wednesday at a meeting of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which brings together big brand retailers, including garment companies, trades unions and INGOs like Oxfam to work on wages and conditions in company supply chains. The Accord got some pretty rave reviews – ‘absolutely historic’, said Ben Moxham of the UK Trades Union Congress; comparable to the 1911 Chicago factory fire, according to one of the big clothes retailers at the meeting.

So what does it say? The Accord covers independent safety inspections, publicly reported; mandatory repairs and renovations; a vital role for workers and trade unions, including a commitment to Bangladesh’s Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety (a national initiative). A key, and controversial aspect is that the Accord will include a legally binding arbitration mechanism, which wins a lot of trust from civil society and trade unions, but has spooked a number of companies based in the litigation-tastic USA (not all though –  part of Tommy Hilfiger’s in there, while Abercrombie and Fitch have said it they will join).

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

SciDev
Cell Phones can speed up malaria treatment in remote areas

“Mobile phones along with local knowledge and field support, can help to ensure the effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria in remote rural areas, according to a study in Bangladesh.

Researchers examined almost 1,000 phone calls to report suspected cases of malaria that were made over two years by inhabitants of a hilly and forested part of the country bordering Mynamar. This area, called the Chittagong Hill Tracts, has Bangladesh’s highest malaria rates.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

UN
Over two billion people now connected to Internet but digital divide remains wide

“While citing the rapid development and growth of the Internet, a top United Nations official today urged greater efforts to bridge the ongoing digital divide and ensure that everyone around the world can harness its benefits.

There were 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide at the end of 2011, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, said in his address to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which opened in Baku, Azerbaijan. In addition, mobile broadband reached more than 1 billion subscriptions, while the use of fixed broadband was estimated at 590 million subscriptions.

“While this progress is surely significant, we have a long way to go in our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide,” he told participants, noting that only a quarter of inhabitants in the developing world were online by the end of 2011.”  READ MORE

Changing Lives through RTI

Luis Esquivel's picture

The Right to Information (RTI) has been highlighted as a key condition for citizen participation, social accountability and good governance, while also being recognized as a human right. In this context, the number of countries adopting RTI legislation has increased significantly in the past decade.

While in some countries RTI has been seen as part of the anti-corruption or state modernization agendas (for instance Mexico and Chile), in South Asia, particularly in India, it has been seen as part of the empowerment agenda. There, the 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act has been embraced by grassroots groups as a powerful tool to demand their entitlements, especially those under government-sponsored social programs. This has resulted in use of the RTI Act by people to improve their living conditions. Although to a lesser extent, citizens in Bangladesh are beginning to realize the potential that their RTI Act has in this area.

The Public’s Proxy?

Antonio Lambino's picture

I recently attended a brown bag on the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF), an advisory facility that seeks to help improve the country’s investment climate.  The International Finance Corporation’s Advisory Services team runs the initiative, generously supported by the UK’s Department for International Development and the European Commission.

Core program areas include regulatory reforms, economic zones, and capacity building and institutional strengthening.  According to Syer Akhtar Mahmood, BICF’s Senior Program Manager, results include the following: a 50% reduction in property registration fees; an online system for business registration; effective consultation mechanisms to identify regulatory issues and recommend reforms; platforms for broad-based public-private dialogue on policy formulation and implementation; and a core group of mid-level government officials who have, among other things, generated notes on reform options and authored 10 articles/op-eds which, according to Mr. Mahmood, rarely happens in Bangladesh.

Ladies Specials: Gender and the Public Space

Darshana Patel's picture

The “Ladies Specials”  are women-only commuter train recently launched in four Indian cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta).  While not a new practice, public transport exclusively for women is becoming popular.  (Mexico City introduced women-only buses in January 2008 and commuters on Japanese trains know a thing or two about this too.)

Harassment on the train or bus is not just an annoying nuisance for women.  It influences a whether or not a woman chooses to enter the workforce in the first place. (Or maybe whether her family or husband will allow her.)

What in the World is 'Rude Accountability'?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

I have just read a fascinating paper published by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and written by Naomi Hossain. It is titled 'Rude Accountability in the Unreformed State: Informal Pressures on Frontline Bureaucrats in Bangladesh' [IDS Working Paper Volume 2009 Number 319]. The paper describes and analyzes what happens when poor peasants in Bangladesh are being poorly served by frontline service providers like doctors and teachers in an environment where the institutional accountability mechanisms do not work. So, what do these poor peasants do? They get angry and they show it. They speak rudely to these doctors and teachers who normally expect deference. They embarrass them. They get local newspapers to name and shame them.They even engage in acts of violence like vandalism. And their reactions often produces results, particularly the media reports. This is what Hossain calls 'rude accountability'.